I traced my finger across the words in the book, biting my lip.
He looked up at me through thick eyelashes with those mesmerizing pale blue eyes, flickering almost golden in the lighting of the room. His dark brown hair was so deliberately messy, my fingers itched to tangle up in them. The shirt he was wearing was all ripped from our hasty descent from the sharp rocks, and I could see slits of toned, tan skin. He was all lean muscle. "Who- who are you?" I asked this guy, probably around seventeen, who had just saved me from the rocks. My voice was embarrassingly choked.
His kissable lips tugged up in a smirk. "Alek Knight, at your service."
Oh, Alek Knight. I sighed and closed the book gently. The cover was beginning to fall off, and the some of the pages were only hanging on by threads. I was constantly re-reading this book. It was something about the author's flowing descriptions and the adventure, but mostly, I couldn't keep my hands off of it because of Alek Knight.
Most books with characters like him were ideally perfect, with perfect looks, perfect grades, and everything turns out spectacular in the end. However, in this one, Alek isn't perfect, and that's what makes him so real. Sure, he's nearly a god in the looks department, and his physique is outstanding, but he has flaws. He's too closed off, too sarcastic, too free. I don't think he knows the meaning of the words 'commitment' or 'responsibility'.
Alek Knight was also a mystery in the book. He just appeared, and no one knows where from. Throughout, there are just so many secrets that you never figure out about him, that always keep you guessing his true intentions.
I used to clutch the book to my chest and fall asleep like that, dreaming that somehow Alek Knight would save me from my own messed up nightmare of a home life. He became my sort of role model for a boyfriend.
The problem wasn't that I couldn't get a boyfriend. No, not at all. Boys were climbing over each other to snag a piece of me, with my long blonde hair, hourglass figure, big blue doe eyes, and legs that stretched for miles. I'd accepted it. They were always interested in one thing, though, and after a while, I started wishing that maybe if I had been born just a little bit uglier, then guys would start to see past my chest, full lips, and legs. It's harsh, but true. Guys only see me as the sex symbol of the school, and I hated it. I genuinely hated it.
I couldn't walk through the hallway without receiving wolf-whistles and someone grabbing my butt. A couple times, at parties, guys had tried to force me into doing things to them, or letting them do things to me.
A couple kicks to their more delicate areas had fixed that problem.
I was starting to think it was impossible for a teenage guy to look at me and see my personality instead of my body, so I resorted to cheesy romance books, where unlike in the real world, the perfect guy sees the perfect girl for who she is.
If only Alek Knight existed.
Someone knocked on my door, and I set the worn book aside on a stool next to the flower patterned sofa I had been curled up in. Slipping on the furry slippers sitting on the edge of a mossy black carpet, I walked curiously to the large wooden doors.
I opened it to reveal my elderly neighbor, Ms. Winnifred, tottering about on my front porch with her cane and her wispy grey sundress, her grey hair pulled back in a tiny bun, and glasses perched on the tip of her button nose. I always joked that she was possibly the cutest old person ever. "Ms. Winnifred," I greeted her in surprise, opening the door more to reveal myself in my pajamas, which consisted of skimpy cotton shorts and a sweatshirt for UCSB. "Can I help you with something?"
"Ellie," she said, a smile lighting up her face. "Come outside, for a moment!"
Confused, I stepped outside. I was a whole half a head taller than Ms. Winnifred. She wobbled excitedly, an attempt at bouncing with her cane, and exclaimed, "There's supposed to be a shooting star in exactly two minutes, passing right above us!"
Oh, Ms. Winnifred and her recent obsession with astrology. Ever since her husband, Patrick, passed away six years ago, every year she had taken up a new hobby, each one stranger than the last. I remember when I was twelve, and she arrived on my porch, all smiles, with a huge basket of homemade soaps that smelled like different types of food, including cat food and pickles. Now, she dedicated a room designed like Professor Trelawney's from Harry Potter, and claimed that she could use the star signs and the sky to predict the future.
"And what will this mean for my future?" I smiled, humoring her.
She gave me a look, and pulled me down my porch steps. "Well, dearie, that depends on what you wish for."
I sat down on the edge of the steps, and helped her do the same. "And if I wish to have a pet dinosaur?"
"Do not mess with the past," she told me seriously. "You may change the future forever, and not in a good way."
"Are there any other rules?"
"Yes." Ms. Winnifred scrunched up her nose as she concentrated. "Do not wish for anything too fantastical, or for something that is not real. Remember, for something big, there are always consequences."
I shuddered at the looming warning in her last sentence. "But I can wish for an A on my test, right?"
"Of course, dearie. However, if you get an A on that, and don't learn the material for it, then you will fail the chapter test, won't you?"
"Oh. So, then, what can I wish for?"
Ms. Winnifred suddenly held up a slim, bony finger. "Hush, Ellie. I can feel it coming."
I bit back a smile.
"Just, remember, wish for something that will make you, and anyone around you, happier." Ms. Winnifred closed her eyes happily.
I raised my gaze to the dark, night sky, before suddenly, not ten seconds after, I saw it. A shooting star streaking across the sky. My mind made its wish before I even realized it.
I wish Alek Knight would come rescue me.
Well, that was a pointless wish. I had just wasted it on something that didn't even have a remote chance of coming true. Maybe, if I had wished for a boy to like me for me, or for myself to find ten dollars on the pavement, it had a chance of coming true.
Ms. Winnifred opened her eyes, and smiled up at the sky. "Did you make a wish, dearie?"
I nodded and stood up on the pavement, then grabbed Ms. Winnifred's hand gently and helped her stand. "Yes. Did you?"
"What is it?"
Ms. Winnifred smiled at me, her blue eyes twinkling like the stars in the sky. "It's a secret."
I walked up the stairs, crossing my arms in the chilly night, and before I shut the door I told her, "Good night, Ms. Winnifred. I hope your wish comes true."
"Don't worry, Ellie, it will. Have a good night."
I curled back up on the sofa, watching Ms. Winnifred wobble back to her house across the street. Ms. Winnifred had always been there for me- like an adopted grandmother. When Mom relapsed and stopped going to her AA meetings, or when Dad left, or when I stopped eating, she had always been there to talk to me and brush my hair, and tell me funny stories from when she was a child.
Sighing, I got up to brush my teeth. I had just gotten my braces off a year ago, and I was religious about keeping them clean. As I padded down the long, lighted hall to the bathroom, I heard a strange rustling, and a pop. Ignoring it and deciding that I was just being paranoid, I flicked the light switch on in the bathroom with one blue manicured finger, and squirted white toothpaste onto my toothbrush.
When I was rinsing my toothbrush out, and about to reach for the mouthwash, I heard another pop. Then a boom, like thunder. Except that the thunder seemed to come from inside the house.
What if that was a gun shooting off?
I abandoned my toothbrush and mouthwash, and lowered myself into a crouch by the cabinets under the sink. There was someone in my house. I was sure of it. My heart raced and my palms became sweaty.
Just breathe, Ellie. It's okay. There's a bat in the cupboard from when you used to play softball. It's okay. You have a weapon.
I took a deep breath, and tried to move as silently as I could towards the cupboard next to the bathroom in the hall. I moved slowly, straining to hear every possible noise in the house.
Oh, god. I just heard someone swear. Grumbling, like someone was frustrated, reached my ears. Oh, god. It really isn't my paranoia. Someone is in my house.
I tried not to breathe at all as I slowly, very quietly, opened the cupboard, now crawling tensely on all fours. My pink bat was inside, and I slid my arm inside and grabbed it, dragging it softly across the carpet floor of the cupboard to reach me.
I grasped it, my fingers sweaty, and I straightened, pushing my back against the wall.
"Goddamnit," the person swore, and I heard a lamp crash to the floor. It was definitely a male voice.
It was definitely coming from the living room. I felt nauseous when I reaIized I had just been there moments before. If I had decided to brush my teeth later… who knows what would have happened.
My breathing became more rapid and shallow as I neared the corner, where the hallway turned into the living room. The trespasser was in there.
Just rush at him. He won't have time to think.
Before I could freak myself out so much that I would become a quivering, vulnerable mess, I lifted the bat above my arms and rushed into the living room, a loud battle cry slipping from my lips. I closed my eyes tightly when I saw the figure in the room, and I brought the bat down.
I waited for the sickening crack. It never happened.
I opened my eyes, and my heart dropped into my stomach. In front of me, a teenage boy my age stood, clasping my pink bat in one strong hand, holding it inches above his head, his muscles tensing. He was gorgeous, breathtakingly gorgeous, and I heard myself gasp. "What are you doing in my house?" was all I could think of saying.
I didn't let go of the bat, even when he tried to tug it out of my hands. "This is your house?"
"Yes," I said warily. "Now, give me the bat, and put your hands up."
"You can't be seriou-"
"Give. Me. The. Bat."
Something about my dangerous tone made him hand it over. Now that I was relieved it wasn't some armed creep or robber, I could fully take him in. He had light blue eyes with flecks of gold in them, messy brown hair, and aristocratic cheekbones. My eyes trailed down his sculpted body, from his pale green tee shirt to his worn jeans. "When you're done checking me out, can you please tell me what is going on?" I was suddenly very aware of how skimpy my shorts were, and how his eyes kept flickering to my bare legs.
His voice jerked me out of my concentration. I never noticed- he had a very nice voice, like dark chocolate. "What's going on?" I repeated in disbelief. "You're in my freaking house!"
"Where are your parents, then?" His tone was accusing.
Is this guy seriously questioning me? Who does he think he is? I wasn't about to tell them that my Dad had been long gone and that Mom hadn't shown up for three days. "My Dad is sleeping and Mom is in the shower," I lied.
"I don't hear a shower."
"It's a big house."
"That brings me back- what am I doing here?"
"You freaking tell me!" I waved my bat dangerously. "Why are you in my house?"
"I don't know!"
"You don't know?" I said incredulously. He scowled at me, and I added, "You don't know why you're in my house, knocking over the furniture?"
"Follow me," I told him, as an idea popped into my head. He was about to cross his arms, but when he saw the bat come closer again, he shrugged and took a step closer to me.
My heart accelerated.
God. He was extremely attractive.
I shook my head of these thoughts, and then walked to the dining table. I pushed out a sturdy wooden chair, and motioned to it with the bat. "Sit," I told him. Of course, it just so happened that when I finally get up the courage to stand up for myself, the guy I'm defending my house against is an Abercrombie model or something. Words were hard to force out of my mouth because my mouth turned dry when I looked at him, muscles tensed and his gorgeous eyes taking in his surroundings.
He warily walked over to it and slowly sat down.
"Stay there." I backed up, keeping one hand clutching the bat, which was pointing at him, and with the other I flicked open a drawer and rustled through it. When I found the duct tape, I smiled. "Put your hands behind the chair," I said.
He did so.
I set aside the bat and unwound a long piece of duct tape, cutting it off with some red scissors by the kitchen counter. Then I grabbed his hands, ignoring that my fingers tingled when they grazed across his. Because he slightly jumped when I touched him, I guess he felt it too. It's probably just static, I convinced myself. I kept hold of his hands, and wrapped the duct tape around his wrists tightly, over and over. He had long fingers. I tried to hold back the shiver than ran through my body- and it wasn't because it was cold. His hands were slightly rough, like he had been used to a lot of outdoor activities, and were just as tan as the rest of his lean body.
"Hey! Wait, now! What are you doing?"
"Hold still," I told him.
"No way in hell!" he retorted. "What the hell are you doing to me?"
"I'm tying you up until the police get here."
"Why the hell would you do that?"
"Because," I said, tightening the duct tape in irritation. He squirmed uncomfortably. "You broke into my house."
"I think you brought me here."
"What?" I finished his wrists and walked around to look at him in disbelief.
"Yeah," he said, glaring at me with those icy eyes. "I woke up in this weird house, and you just attacked me with a bat. If anyone should be calling the police, it should be me."
"Liar." I unraveled the tape and started tying one foot to the chair leg.
"Why would I lie?"
"Um, let me think," I said sarcastically. "Because you broke into my house? Nah. No robber would lie to me when I caught him- that would be just silly!"
"Okay, I get where you're coming from," the teenage trespasser said. "But, trust me, I have no clue where I am right now. The last thing I remember was falling asleep by the beach, and then I just woke up here."
"You are a really horrible liar," I told him as I moved on to the other leg.
He squirmed in the seat, trying to tear his wrists apart. "I swear I'm not lying!"
"And I'm the tooth fairy," I said sarcastically.
Defeated, he glared up at me. "I guess that's why I never found money under my pillow."
"I tend not to give money to robbers."
"The police are going to come here, and then they are going to find me innocent and arrest you for attacking me."
"Self-defense, dumbass," I reminded him. "Plus, you broke into my house." Don't look at his face. I knew if I looked up into his pale blue eyes, tan, clear skin, straight nose and kissable lips, I would lose my edge and my concentration.
He rested his head on the chair, tipping his chin towards me. There was a scar running down his jaw… that scar was familiar… but I didn't know anyone with a scar… "What can I do to convince you that I didn't break into your house?"
"You just appeared out of thin air?"
"I'm trying to be serious here, and I don't try that often."
"Wait one second. I know exactly how to check whether you broke in or not."
He looked hopeful. "You do?"
"Yes. I'll just check the security alarm system. If anyone has entered through any doors or windows, it will tell me." Triumphantly, I grinned. I've got this sucker. "You can either own up to it now, or I check. Either one."
"Check already! This tape hurts!"
Not the response I expected. He must believe that the security doesn't actually work. I walked up to it, and flicked open the white lid. There was an LCD screen of all the rooms. I enlarged the picture of the living room, and then played the video.
I saw myself walk out to answer the door, then come back ten minutes later. I saw myself sigh and then climb off the sofa to brush my teeth. Then, the book that I had been reading earlier and had set on the stool, suddenly flew open with a pop. After, as if that wasn't insanely creepy enough, the screen went fuzzy and grey, and when it cleared again, the boy was there, wiping his eyes tiredly, and stumbling around like he was drugged. I watched as his foot got tangled up in the wire cords, and he irritatedly tugged it free, causing the lamp to crash to the ground. I saw him spin around confusedly, examining the room he was in. And then I appeared, pale and trembling, with my small pink bat above my head. I rushed towards him and quick as lightening, he had grabbed the bat.
Frowning, I paused the video. One, the book flying open was plain creepy, because there was no wind in the house. Two, how did he get in? The video must have just malfunctioned, I decided.
"Have you figured out how I got here yet?" The boy yelled.
I pulled up another screen, showing how many times people have exited or entranced through all the windows or doors, with different colored footsteps for each person, the deeper the color depending on their weight, which set off signals underneath the carpet flooring. My light green footsteps were the only ones walking about the house, when suddenly, blue footprints appeared in front of the couch, far away from any windows or doors.
He hadn't broken into the house.
He had just… appeared.
I walked back to him numbly, staring at him in befuddlement.
"Now, can you get this damn tape off of me?" he demanded.
"How did you do it?"
"Hell if I know."
I blinked tiredly as a wave of exhaustion flowed through my limbs, making my knees weak. I cut all the tape off with the red scissors, and the boy unfolded himself from the chair, stretching and twisting his sore wrists. "I think I deserve some coffee after that," he said, a smirk on his face.
"Sure. Whatever." I dragged myself to the coffee machine. "Is the flavor chocolate mocha okay?" It was so weird- I was treating him like a guest now! But my brain was so tired, after all that excitement, that it just accepted the fact that he had appeared and sent signals through my body to go to bed.
I set the machine on and leaned against the marble counter as I watched him seat himself at the bar. "Where do you live?"
"Florida. I live in Georgia. I had traveled to the beach to relax, and then I fell asleep, and woke up here." He only then noticed my wide eyes and dropped jaw. "What?"
"We-I-you… you're in California right now," I said.
"No. I'm dead serious," I told him. "Santa Barbara, California. Zip code 93101."
He laughed, but it was uncertain. "Is this one of those stupid prank shows? Am I being taped?"
I rested my head in my hands. "Do you have somewhere to stay here?"
"Well, obviously not. I live in freaking Georgia, and I somehow appeared here, across the country."
"Okay. You can stay in a guest room, but if I catch you doing anything, anything, the police will be over here before you know it."
He pressed a hand over his heart and gave me a sarcastic hurt face. "It hurts that you still think that about me."
"We'll figure this all out in the morning." The coffee machine beeped, and I grasped the hot cup. "I'm going to bed now."
"What about your parents? What will they think of a random teenage boy sleeping over?"
I tiredly blinked, trying not to fall asleep right then and there. The boy seemed dangerous, sure, he had those dangerous looks, but there was no way any he could have broken in. It hurt my mind to think about it. "They're not here. My dad left four years ago and Mom is probably passed out outside some bar somewhere," I said tiredly.
This surprised him. "Oh," was all he said.
"The bathroom is down the hall," I said. "There's a guest room you can stay in right next to it."
"Thanks… what's your name?"
"Ellie Claire. Yours?"
He smirked, and grabbed the coffee from me, his fingers sending sparks through mine when he touched me, suddenly awakening me. "Alek Knight, at your service."